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Cubs snap Braves' winning streak
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07/12/2003  4:30 PM ET 
Cubs snap Braves' winning streak
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

CHICAGO -- This was one of those afternoons Horacio Ramirez needed all the help he could get from a Braves offense that has known to be rather charitable to its pitchers this season.

    Horacio Ramirez   /   P
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 170
Bats/Throws: L/L

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Ramirez encountered some uncharacteristic troubles and his offense simply couldn't solve Matt Clement, who helped the Cubs notch a 7-3 win over the Braves on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

"I didn't have good damage control and it just all kind of snowballed on me," Ramirez said after suffering his first loss since April 11.

Ramirez allowed seven earned runs on nine hits in a season-short 3 2/3 innings. The 23-year-old rookie southpaw, who is 8-3 with a 4.00 ERA, had gone 12 straight starts without a loss. The last time he had tasted defeat, the Braves -- who now have the Majors' best record -- were 3-8.

"I'd have liked to have finished the first half on a good note," Ramirez said. "But I'm happy with the way that I've pitched."

Over his previous four starts, the Braves young hurler had allowed a total of five runs, or one run fewer than the Cubs were able to produce off him in Saturday's decisive fourth inning.

Sammy Sosa began the fourth with a homer to left off Ramirez and ended it with a groundout against Kevin Gryboski. In between, the Cubs registered three doubles off Ramirez and watched Ramon Martinez touch Gryboski for a triple.

"I didn't think I pitched that bad really," Ramirez said. "I think I've pitched worse before and gotten away with it."

Since serving his suspension for using a corked bat, Sosa is hitting .344 (32 for 93) with 12 homers and 23 RBIs. During the first nine games of this homestand, the Cubs right fielder is hitting .395 (15 for 39) with seven homers and 13 RBIs.

    Rafael Furcal   /   SS
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 165
Bats/Throws: B/R

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It was rather evident that Ramirez wasn't his same dominating self right from the start. Mark Grudzielanek touched him for a double to begin the bottom of the first and later scored on Sosa's bloop single just into right field. The Cubs would register three hits in the first inning. Ramirez minimized the damage by getting Eric Karros to ground into an inning-ending double play.

"I was just missing on a lot of pitches and having to work behind in the count a lot," Ramirez said.

Rafael Furcal's two-out, solo homer in the third inning would allow the Braves to tie the score at 1. Two of the four hits Furcal has had in his 28 at-bats during this road trip have been homers.

After the Furcal homer, Clement would retire 13 of the next 14 batters he faced. Vinny Castilla's two-out single in the fifth would produce the Braves' only baserunner until they struck for two more runs off the Cubs starter in the eighth.

    Javy Lopez   /   C
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 200
Bats/Throws: R/R

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"[The Braves] are a very good offensive team," Cubs catcher Damian Miller said. "[Clement] did a great job of moving the ball in and out. He was effective in and as soon as we got guys to look in, he'd throw a sinker in and they'd roll it over."

Clement, who allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits over a season-long eight innings, is 2-0 with a 2.76 ERA over his first three starts this month. The right-hander has won five of his past six decisions and recorded 45 strikeouts in his past 51 1/3 innings.

"He pitched great today," Javy Lopez said of Clement. "He's a tough pitcher to hit. He kept the ball down and forced us to hit it on the ground. He was in a zone today and stayed there."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.





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